Halas Hall Report: Wednesday

There is a lot going on Wednesday at Halas Hall, including QB Brian Griese's memories of the Raiders-Broncos rivalry ... OC Ron Turner feels that most of his unit's problems have been self-inflicted ... All of that plus the first injury report of the week.

Griese is quite familiar with Raider Nation from his time in Denver
There are many great rivalries in the National Football League, but as far as the AFC is concerned, few teams have a genuine distaste for each other like the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. Denver head coach Mike Shanahan was the top dog in Oakland for a grand total of 20 games – posting a pedestrian 8-12 record from 1988-89 – before getting canned, and it seems like he still holds a grudge against mercurial Raiders owner Al Davis to this day. The two organizations have both been quite successful over the years, combining for five Super Bowl titles.


QB Brian Griese
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bears quarterback Brian Griese experienced many bloodthirsty battles between the two franchises from his time in Denver, and he has many memories – both fond and not so fond – of that notoriously nasty crowd at McAfee Coliseum.

"Obviously, it was a great rivalry," Griese said Wednesday before practice at Halas Hall. "It was a lot of fun to go out there and play. It's a great atmosphere. I think one Halloween we played out there, and it was very memorable from the standpoint of all the costumes that were in the stands. Even though it's not Halloween coming up, I'm sure there will be costumes in the stands. So it's a lot of fun. It's a fun environment."

Many fans and media alike have dismissed the Bears from playoff consideration this season already based on their awful 3-5 start, but Griese and the rest of the locker room are doing their best to ignore the constant criticism and right the ship in the second half.

"I really don't pay that much attention," he said, "but it really doesn't matter for us. And it's an old cliché. You circle the wagons, and everybody in the locker room really is depending upon each other. And really nobody outside of our locker room has any say in what happens for the remainder of the season. That is an old cliché, but the fact of the matter is that it's true and that's the way we're going to approach it."

Turner's game plan won't look much different coming out of the bye
The Bears will always be a defense-first football team and were carried to Super Bowl XLI last season in large part because of a sturdy and opportunistic D, but this was supposed to be the year that the offense mercifully started to pull its own weight. QB Rex Grossman finally had a full year of experience under his belt, an experienced offensive line remained intact, and new weapons like rookie TE Greg Olsen and cornerback-turned-receiver Devin Hester would bring much needed speed and explosiveness. However, at the season's midpoint, Grossman is carrying a clipboard, the blocking up front has been suspect, and turnovers are taking potential points off the board.


Offensive coordinator Ron Turner
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Raiders are 30th in the league defending the run and allow 152.5 yards per game on the ground, which means it's time for offensive coordinator Ron Turner to feed RB Cedric Benson 20-25 times and re-commit to running the football once and for all.

"Every week we go into it saying we want to run the football and have balance and do the things that we want to do offensively," Turner said after practice Wednesday at Halas Hall. "The key is staying ahead of the chains and getting some positive yards on first and second down, getting some first downs and being able to move the football and allow yourself the chance to get some [big] runs. If we do that, it's something we've got to stay with. If you watch the film, they do a good job. They've got some good athletes [and] good speed over there. So we're just going to have to keep doing what we believe in, and hopefully we can make some plays."

The Chicago offense is just 26th overall, including a miserable 31st in rushing, but Turner believes the problems are mostly self-inflicted as opposed to other teams shutting them down.

"Lack of execution," he said, "which again is lack of first downs because of lack of execution. Mostly, it's us hurting ourselves. Breakdowns [in] different places and just not executing the way we're capable of executing and [not] making plays when we have opportunities to make them – and then turnovers."

Injury Report
For the Bears, OG Ruben Brown (shoulder), DT Tommie Harris (knee), WR Devin Hester (illness), S Brandon McGowan (elbow), and CB Nathan Vasher (groin) were all held out of practice Wednesday.

As for the Raiders, CB Nnamdi Asomugha (knee), OT Cornell Green (team decision), C Jeremy Newberry (team decision), DT Warren Sapp (knee), and CB Fabian Washington (calf) were all held out of practice. C Jake Grove (knee) and LB Sam Williams (shoulder) were both only able to participate on a limited basis. DT Gerard Warren (quad) returned to practice and took part in all drills.

News & Notes
DT Darwin Walker had a black t-shirt hanging from his locker Wednesday, and the phrase "I Believe" was on the back in big white block letters. Apparently, this is now the team motto for the 3-5 Bears – a longshot at best to make the postseason – the rest of the way.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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